By Paul Ellis, President of the ECHPOA, updated 1/15/2018.
In 1973, board members of the ECHPOA purchased Outlot A (with the pond and Church Fork Creek) and Outlot B (with Elk Creek, the association building, and the horse corral) for unpaid taxes. Tatum-Reese Development Corporation, the company that developed our community, had gone bankrupt and failed to pay taxes on the properties. I have not been able to find any water rights associated with the deeds for Outlot A, B or the entire community.
In October 2016 Tim Buckley, the District 80 Water Commissioner, informed us that our well permit was not in compliance for use by the corral and that we must augment the pond water lost to evaporation which is required by state law. He instructed us to first work on transporting water for the horses and installing a flow meter on the association well. After that, he said we must begin working on the pond improvements to become compliant with state water laws. If we did not he would place a lock on our well and we would be forced to drain the pond. We again met with Tim in August 2017 and our progress, as described below, was acknowledged and future goals were established.
In November 2016 the corral boarders began purchasing and hauling water in 50 gallon barrels from the Bailey Water & Sanitation District public spigot for $.25 per 10 gallons. In January 2017 the association purchased 2 x 500 gallon water tanks for corral water storage. In March 2017 a water flow meter was installed on the well pump to keep track and report water usage in the association building. In April 2017 the association purchased a 275 gallon water tank to increase hauling capacity. In May 2017 hoses and fittings continued to be improved. In July 2017 the association purchased a second 275 gallon water tank.
In November 2016 we also began looking for natural springs that feed Church Fork Creek, water rights, and measured the pond to be 1.25 acres. In February 2017, after drilling through 18 inches of ice, we measured the water depth of the pond to be 12 feet. In July 2017 a staff gauge was installed at the outlet of the pond to keep track and report water levels. In August 2017 we began researching the cost of augmentation water. Headwater Authority of the South Platte (HASP) estimated $30,000 per acre foot, and we could loose up to 2 acre feet per year. Therefore, if we want to purchase water, using a one time fee, the water alone will cost $77,650. In addition we must measure, record, and report the water into and out of the pond. The measuring, recording, and reporting costs could be as low as $5,000 in its most rudimentary form but as high as $15,000 if we take it to the sophistication level that will eventually be required by the District 80 Water Commissioner. Leasing the water, using an annual fee, would cost about 10% of the purchase fee, or $7,765 each and every year. We needed to identify how we could fund this huge expense as it is obvious that our current annual income and fixed expenses would make it impossible to pay for.
We “brain stormed” ideas to increase our cash flow in order to support saving our pond. In October 2017 we mailed out postcards asking for support from all 360 ECHPOA property owners. We began renting the association building on a monthly basis to increase our income (now at $300/month plus utilities). We sent emails to our 70+ paid members and posted articles on this blog asking for donations and support letters. In December 2017 continued to send emails to our members and posted update articles. In January 2018 we sent a second postcard to all 360 ECHPOA property owners. So far we have received $2,729 from community members and $800 from the association budget that has been earmarked for Save Our Pond and 24 support letters. To see a list of everyone who sent a money donation and / or support letter, go to the Save Our Pond Supporters page under the Fishing Pond menu option above. During the November 2017 association meeting a motion was made and approved for Park County residents outside of the ECHPOA community to have access to our pond after buying an annual permit which includes two fishing badges for $100.00, limited to 200 permits. ECHPOA members with fishing badges will still pay $65.00. January 2018 we began offering Park County annual fishing permits. These and other ideas will significantly increase our cash flow. However, none of these ideas will get us the income needed to purchase water at the one time fee level. We also discussed applying for a loan and selling part of the association property, both being an undesirable option and could have a negative impact on our association as a whole. It was decided that our next best option would be to work on obtaining grant money.
Our first grant application was submitted on October 20th to the Park County Land and Water Trust Fund Board (LWTFB). We gave an oral presentation on November 1st. The LWTFB recommended to the Park County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) that they give us $50,000 but hold the grant for up to 2 years – until we get other partners (grants) to provide the rest of the money. We gave a second oral presentation on November 16th to the BCC and they were scheduled to make a decision to approve or deny our application on November 22nd. However, there were only 2 commissioners present at that meeting and we were given the option to wait until all 3 were present and we accepted. With only 2 commissioners one might vote no and the other vote yes, making it a tie, and with a tie they declare the motion “not approved.” Waiting will give us a better chance of our grant being approved. We were rescheduled for December 7th, moved to December 14th, and then “cancelled until a later date.” Late December, County Commissioner Mike Brazell contacted us to let us know we needed to get other grant partners before coming back to meet with the Board. We will let you know as soon as we hear of a reschedule date. Meeting will begin at 9:30 am, 501 Main Street, in Fairplay, CO.
In January we will begin working on obtaining other partners (grants) that might provide additional money. We will contact Trout Unlimited, Izaak Walton League of America, The Forest Service, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. We will also continue working to obtain a 501C3, tax exempt status, which would help eliminate our property taxes and save the association about $1,000 a year. In addition, we will continue to accept donations and support letters. (Click on text link to learn where to send and what to write.) Your support will help Save Our Pond. If all 360 property owners in the Elk Creek Highlands and Meadows subdivisions would donate just $111 each, one time only, we would achieve the total amount LWTFB and BCC is asking us to provide! In kind volunteer hours will also count towards the total needed.
If we are unable to secure enough money to purchase augmentation water and are forced to drain the pond, we will work toward reintroducing beavers to the wetland area below the pond where Church Fork Creek and Elk Creek come together. In September 2013 about 16 inches of rain fell in 6 days, and with that amount of water rushing down Elk Creek, the wetland area was flooded, numerous beaver dams were breached, and our largest beaver pond was emptied. The beavers disappeared and there has not been a full beaver pond on our property since. If beavers create a pond, we do not have to pay to augment the water lost to evaporation. In July 2016 Mark Beardsley, EcoMetrics LLC, along with 2 representatives from the US Fish and Wildlife Services performed a steam assessment of our association property. In May 2017 Jeff Ravage, North Fork Watershed Coordinator, Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) performed a wetland assessment for possible beaver relocation. In June 2017 Sherri Tippie, beaver specialist, along with Chris Canipe and Aaron Hall, Friends of the Wildlife and the Sierra Club performed a wetland assessment and gave a presentation on her 35 years experiences in relocating whole beaver families. In August 2017 Ted Stein continued researching obstacles we will face in preparing our wetland area and getting approval to reintroduce beavers to our property.
All of this work has taken many, many volunteer hours to perform! I would like to thank Tim Bradley, Sarah Bowman, Amy Bryne, Jeff DeBerry, Doug Druliner, Karen Ellis, Mike Felix, Lynda James, Ed Montgomery, Bryan Murphy, Ted Stein, Dale and Walt Wark, and apologize for anyone I missed.
We will continue to update this page as we make progress.